AirDrop used for sexual harassment on public transit

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A woman told news site DCist earlier this month that someone sent her a picture with “a big old penis on it” while she rode the Washington, D.C., Metro.

The person reportedly sent her the picture through AirDrop, an iPhone feature that allows users to send pictures to people who are nearby via Bluetooth. Users have the option to accept or reject the images, but are first shown a preview of them. 

{mosads}“I felt violated,” the woman said. “There were at least 15 people on the car. No one was giggling or doing anything that would make me think, ‘It’s definitely them.’”

“As with any incident of harassment or inappropriate activity, we encourage customers to report these to Metro Transit Police immediately,” a Metro spokesperson told DCist in a statement. “The nature of airdrop technology is such that if set to ‘everyone’ then any person near you can send you an image. For this reason, we encourage the public to change their airdrop permissions to ‘off’ or ‘contacts only.’”

Cybersecurity expert Nathan Freitas of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society questioned whether Apple should allow users to block the images before they show up in an interview with The Washington Post.  

“Ultimately, Apple and others need to consider bad actors more seriously in their design process, just like Facebook and Twitter,” he said. 

The Hill has reached out to Apple for comment. 

Tags Apple iPhones Metro Sexual harassment

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